To those wondering why I call myself this,
Know that I am
Whose existence reminds the world ‘white’ web
There’s no safety in numbers
When countless ones of me are deleted from the hardware of history.
You receive a cheque for
One billion pounds
Then the one is scratched out,
What are you left with?
Will you raise a fuss
The same fuss you make over a stolen pound coin,
Or push it to the back of your grey matter
Where zero = nothing
And nothing = doesn’t matter
So you don’t really mind?
I’m not Wesley Snipes or Terrance Howard
So I can’t afford to not mind. I’m
My hue lies midway in the spectrum of this
Scientifically inaccurate, politically correct,
Ancestry-whitewashing Eurocentric concept called ‘Blackness’
And I’m not painting myself in it. Why?
They tar their eyeballs colour-blind
Yet on the collective subconscious canvas the tale they paint is the same,
That everyone in the past who just happened to look like me
Contributed never created history –
Forget that we existed for 200,000 years plus
While they existed for 12,000 years minus.
They paint our story began in slavery –
Ignore that they were international slaves
Before they gained global superpower status,
They paint I’m an ethnic minority –
Never mind that they have never totalled more than a third of our species.
Real problem is I’m an ethnic majority,
But when I paint that out the world tars me a
As does my Muslim upbringing.
Like a hyena hungry for echoes of expired lives
I scavenged for the meat of wise words well past their wisdom date,
Accidentally wolfed down a Muhammadan statement that my system still regurgitates:
Badaä (a)l-islāmu gariybā
Wa sayaüwdu kamā badaä gariybā,
“Islam began as something strange
And it will return to how it began – strange,
So blessings to the strangers.”
All my life I’ve been estranged,
An immigrant seeking asylum in his own country. I’ve not found it.
I’ve never fit in.
Can’t sing and dance, shuck and jive or rap,
No swagger, no gold shackles on my neck, don’t live in a council flat.
Wear pants on my waist not half off my ass,
Never made trouble at school – never once bunked class.
Never owned a gun or done time, I don’t speak slang,
I believe women are people not “tings” to bang,
Manhood’s about what you do with it not if it’s bigger,
Born in UK but I don’t say “blud”, “fam”, “my yout” or “my …”
Dunno the difference between marijuana, weed, ganja, cannabis…
What, they’re the same thing?
That’s this poem gone up in smoke.
I’m Jamaican but you won’t hear me boast
“Oh, I got Indian in me” and “oh, I got Chinese in me” –
Which I do by the way;
Instead I big up my possibly Ghanaian
But definitely mostly African roots Whatever they are
Because they are to me what I am to this world:
One Tawny Stranger.